Book Reviews

Review: Adam-2 by Alastair Chisholm

I really enjoyed Alastair Chisholm’s debut sci-fi, Orion Lost (review here), so I was thrilled to get a chance to review Adam-2!

Book: Adam-2 by Alastair Chisholm

Publication date: 5th August 2021

Ownership: Proof copy sent free of charge by Nosy Crow Books. All opinions my own.

Content warnings: Violence, injury and death; discussion of war, bombs, and killing other characters; death of a parent (in backstory) and discussion of grief (on page).

Adam-2 has been locked in the basement of a lost building for over two hundred years – until he emerges into a world ruined by a civil war between humans and advanced intelligence. Hunted by both sides, Adam discovers that he holds the key to the war, and the power to end it – to destroy one side and save the other. But first, Adam must decide who – and what – he really is.

With incredible twists and turns, and a hugely-gripping, action-packed story, this is a thrilling, unputdownable adventure – perfect for fans of Eoin Colfer, Anthony Horowitz, and Philip Reeve.

The first chapter of this book is a stonker: unsettling in its banality, it describes Adam going about his everyday life in the basement he’s been trapped in for two hundred years, going through the motions of homework, playtime, speaking practice and bedtime. It sets the tone wonderfully for this characterful story, which examines humanity and kindness through the existence of one lonely robot who just wants to be a good boy. When he’s released from his imprisonment into a dystopian world where a small human settlement battles the robots who want to kill them, Adam will be forced to confront not only what he is, but how he can continue to be it in a world that seems so black and white.

Adam-2 balances action with quieter, more speculative moments really well, and would make a great introduction to the ethical dilemmas that the sentience of robots present, which is a time-honoured facet of science fiction. Adult readers who are well-versed in this vein of philosophical sci fi may find this doesn’t touch on anything particularly new in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still entertaining and vibrantly written, and is more than a little clever. I really loved the way that Adam’s creator has been mythologised in the two hundred years since civilisation fell – it’s only light references, but they were so interesting to me. The parallels to Daedalus and Gepetto are lightly sketched and let you draw your own conclusions about Adam and his father.

There’s a diverse cast here, and as well as a range of skin tones and a main character with a prosthetic hand, I think this is the first middle grade book I’ve read with a nonbinary main character who uses neo-pronouns. And not a robot character, which is important! Linden’s identity isn’t an issue for any of the characters, and it’s introduced as casually as any other aspect of hir personality, even by Adam, who’s been locked in a basement for two hundred years. It’s really nice to see the narrative be so casually accepting of it, especially in a book that’s so concerned with figuring out the ‘right way’ to be human.

I didn’t love it quite as much as Orion Lost, but that only comes down to my own preferences for space sci-fi over ruined-Earth sci fi. This is a great, smart read, and one that is certain to enthrall the target audience. Very enjoyable – four out of five cats!

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